2016 – The Good, The Bad, and The Scary

2016 was quite a year in regard to the internet and its usage, not to mention users’ increase in security awareness.  While those things are positive, we also saw an increase in security breaches as well as an increase in the complexity of attacks the hackers and other malicious parties are using.

According to Gina Smith from anewdomain.net and Internet World Stats, 2016 saw an increase to the tune of just under 3.7 billion internet users world wide.  The increase represents roughly a 10% increase from the previous year, but more astoundingly, mobile usage saw an increase of roughly 17% by adding over 280 million users.

I promise, I’m not trying to bore you with stats.  I just think the numbers help to fully understand why all of our lives are so much more at risk online than they used to be.  What’s more fascinating is that while North America only represents 8% of the internet users, the United States itself leads the world in overall online spending.  It’s no wonder we make exceptional targets for malicious activities like identity theft and credit card fraud.

The malware that is responsible for so many of data loss and security breaches continues to become more and more complex, almost by the week.  These days, most security professionals will tell you that a simple anti-virus program just isn’t enough anymore for your protection.

What’s amazing is that even with the increase of users and the increase of awareness of those users, the bad guys are still finding their way into our systems and devices by using the same old tricks most of the time.  According to TrendMicro, 91% of system infectious of malware are still coming from successful PHISHING attacks.  That means that users are still clicking on links and opening files in emails that are infected and they are not from who they say they are from.  To be fair, the PHISHING emails themselves have become very, very good and look very official most of the time.

TIP:  As always, don’t open emails from people you do not know or you are not expecting.  If it is from an official site or company, remember to be skeptical, especially if you are not expecting the email.  For example, this time of year, the bad guys like to use emails the appear to be from the IRS, but they end up asking you for information then stealing your identity.

As much as you need the proper tools and services to protect you, remember that you are your best protection agains these issues.  Use the internet and your email wisely.  Pay attention to ANYTHING that seems out of the ordinary on your computer, your phone, your bank account, your credit cards, or anything else that could mean a breach of your security and information.  Even a hack of your social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) could mean the beginnings of a larger attack on you as a person.

2016 was a growing year in many ways, but not all of them good.  Remember that Cyber Watchtower is here to help you with information and services to help keep you life more secure.    The internet is going to get more crowded as the years go on, so let us help keep you safe online.

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

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